Sunday, March 04, 2018

Ogden-Hinckley Airport (KOGD) users, pilots organize amid simmering relations with city

Lew Wheelwright is shown here Friday, March 2, 2018, at Ogden-Hinckley Airport. Wheelwright helped form Ogden Regional Airport Progressive Development Group, meant to give pilots, hangar owners and others at the airport a means to convey their concerns and input to city leaders.

OGDEN — With relations apparently simmering, a contingent of hangar owners, pilots and others who use the Ogden-Hinckley Airport have formed a group to give them a vehicle to convey input to city leaders.

“We want to put some pressure on the city to pay attention,” said Lew Wheelwright, a pilot and hangar owner at the city-owned airport.

Wheelwright said the aim of the informal group — the Ogden Regional Airport Progressive Development Group — is to maintain positive interaction with airport officials. He unsuccessfully ran for Ogden City Council last year, spurred in large part by dissatisfaction with airport management.

Even so, Wheelwright has had tough words for airport management, as has Ed McKenney, a former member of the city’s Ogden-Hinckley Airport Advisory Committee who spearheaded the new group’s formation. And the organization’s formation underscores the criticism some direct at airport management, due in part to the city’s controversial push to boost commercial flights to and from Ogden through Allegiant Air, so far with mixed success.

“When we’re ready, that will happen,” said Wheelwright, alluding to commercial airline development. “To try to pay our way into that arena, it doesn’t make sense.”

Increasing commercial flights, Ogden officials argue, will help reduce the municipal funding now required to keep the airport afloat — some $600,000 a year — though it can also require some city subsidies, at least initially, to airline operators. 

Airport Manager Jon Greiner said he attended the Jan. 27 meeting that served to formally announce creation of the Ogden Regional Airport Progressive Development Group.

“I’m open to anything that improves the airport as I’m sure the city is,” Greiner said.

At the same time, he wryly alluded to McKenney’s former tenure serving on the airport advisory committee, the body made of airport users meant to advise the Ogden mayor and city council. McKenney — who didn’t respond to queries seeking comment — abruptly resigned from the group in late 2016 due in part to frustration with how the airport was being managed.

McKenney left one airport group, Greiner said, “so I guess he’s going to start his own.”

Ogden Mayor Mike Caldwell said it’s largely Federal Aviation Administration guidelines — not the whims of city officials — that dictate management of the airport. Sometimes when operators are instructed to heed the feds’ rules, they’re not happy, and he singled out FAA guidelines governing hangars that have prompted grumbling by some.

“We feel like we’ve always been able to listen,” Caldwell said. “There are always going to be a mix of different uses and interests and sometimes they’re not always on the same page.”


Some of the critics’ other concerns center around leadership of Greiner, a former Ogden police chief and state senator. “We need an airport manager with an airport manager’s degree,” Wheelwright said.

More generally, those involved in the new group think the airport here isn’t meeting its potential.

Airport operations have been marked by “the departure of critical airport businesses, the decline in transient traffic, a decline in airport hangar occupancy and property values, and an unfortunate decline in airport reputation,” McKenney said in a statement. 

David Shumway, a hangar owner also involved in the new group, said the list of issues is “endless and it depends on who you’re talking to.”

Even so, Greiner said general aviation — private pilots and hangar operations, for instance — account for the bulk of activity at the airport, not commercial flights, and airport officials are mindful of the fact. “General aviation is the heart and soul of the airport,” Greiner said.

Original article can be found here ➤

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